Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1961
NUMBER 43, PAGE 1,12-13a

Biblical Authority: The "Key" To Religious Unity

Roger M. Hendricks, Harlingen, Texas

For hundreds of years men have been pleading for unity among religious people. And for hundreds of years religious division has run rampant. Thousands have searched for the "key" to religious unity. Many have discovered it; many have failed. But the "key" which can unlock the door to unity has been with men all along; it has simply been overlooked, neglected, and disregarded. That "key" is Biblical Authority! Until unity of thought is reached upon final authority and submission thereto, men will remain hopelessly divided in religious matters.

Authority In Religion

All religious authority, in the very nature of the case, inheres in God. This is evident from the fact that he is the creator of all — all is, therefore, subject to him.

However, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has been given absolute authority in religious matters. Scriptural proof of this is seen in Matthew 28:18 (ASV): "And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Also, in Matthew 17:5 the voice of God is heard from heaven declaring: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." Again, in Acts 3:22, 23 Peter said unto the Jews: "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people."

Note the relationship of Jesus to the following:

To the Kingdom; Jesus is King.

To the Body; Jesus is Head.

To the Law; Jesus is Lawgiver.

To the Doctrine; Jesus is Teacher.

To the Army; Jesus is Captain.

To the Structure; Jesus is Chief Cornerstone-

To Salvation; Jesus is Savior.

Be it remembered, therefore, that he has All Authority.

Jesus has revealed his will, his law, through inspired men. To the eleven apostles the Lord said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...." (Jno. 16:12, 13) The Holy Spirit did, indeed, guide the inspired men into all truth and Paul was, thus able to say, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Cor. 2:12, 13) Again Paul testifies, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11, 12) Also, in Ephesians 3:1-5 he writes, "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit...."

Today the expression of Christ's authority is the New Testament. We might illustrate this with the laws of the land. There are men in this country who have been invested with legislative authority. How do they express that power? Through the laws and decrees which they give. The New Testament contains the laws, the decrees of the Son of God. It is the expression of his authority.

Furthermore, the New Testament is all-sufficient as our guide in religious matters. We have no need for so-called of that "latter day revelations," papal decrees, or anything else — including brotherhood speculations and theories. Jesus promised to guide the apostles into all truth. If he kept his promise, he revealed to them all the truth that man needs to guide him from earth to heaven. If they kept the charge which he gave to them in Matthew 28:18-20, "....Teaching them to observe all things....," they revealed all truth to the world. We have the truth in the New Testament. (See also: 2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Jude 3)

Must Have Scriptural Authority

Man must have authority from the New Testament for everything that he believes, teaches, and practices in religion. That which we believe must come from God. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17) That which we teach must come from God. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God...." (1 Pet. 4:11) That which we practice must come from God. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus...." (Col. 3:17) "In the name of the Lord Jesus" simply means by his authority.

Since we must have scriptural authority, we need to know how such is established. Biblical authority is established, either generically or specifically, by precept (a direct statement or command), by approved example, and by necessary inference.

When religious leaders, and others, begin to cry: "We don't need Biblical authority," "We do many things for which we have no authority," they immediately evince an improper attitude toward God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Inspired Word. Beware of such! We have been forbidden to go beyond the authority of Jesus Christ as expressed in the New Testament. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God...." (2 Jno. 9 ASV) Paul admonishes us to "learn not to go beyond the things which are written...." (1 Cor. 4:6 ASV) It is impossible to have an apostasy without someone first violating the authority of the Savior. In the very nature of the case, we must respect his authority.

The Reason For Religious Controversy

I know of no controversy (at least no doctrinal controversy) in religious matters which has not been the result of a misapprehension of, misapplication of, or disregard for the proper authority in that realm. Some controversies arise because men misunderstand the authority of Jesus. Some controversies are caused by an improper application authority by those who, presumably understand it. Then there are controversies caused by men who, both understanding and rightly applying said authority, choose to disregard it altogether. A knowledge of the authority of God's Son and a proper application of the same is of no value if disregarded!

Let us note a few Bible examples of religious controversies and see what caused them.

1. The controversy over circumcision. (Acts 15) What was the cause of this controversy? Was circumcision sinful, per se? Of course not! Were Paul and the others opposed to having children circumcised? Could they be properly classed as "anti- circumcisionists?" No! What caused the trouble, then? The teachers of "salvation by circumcision" appealed to the wrong source of authority. They were trying to bind an Old Testament rite on the wrong people for the wrong purpose. Jesus had not authorized this teaching.

2. Sabbath days and holy days. (Col. 2) What caused the controversy? Men were appealing to the wrong source, the Old Testament, for the binding of the observance of these days on the followers of Christ. Jesus had not authorized this teaching.

3. Confusion over the "name." (1 Cor. 1, 3) What caused the division? Are you ready to say that authority was not involved in this controversy? Then you are wrong. Some were appealing to improper authority, human wisdom and desire, for calling themselves after Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. Jesus had not authorized this practice.

Notice a few denominational examples of controversy and the causes of them.

1. Sprinkling and pouring as substitutes for baptism (immersion). What causes the controversy? Lack of Biblical authority for such practice. Jesus has not authorized this.

2. Mechanical instrumental music in worship. The cause of the controversy? Lack of Biblical authority for such. Jesus has not authorized it.

3. Pie suppers, leg shows, etc, for raising church money, Who causes the controversy? Those who endorse such or those who oppose it? Let the promoters of these events give "book chapter, and verse;" "precept, approved example, or necessary inference;" "generic or specific authority" for such and I, for one, shall accept it. Is this not fair? Jesus hasn't authorized such.

But let us look at some examples of controversies among brethren today.

1. Church sponsored recreation programs and socials. Who causes the controversy? Those who endorse such practices or those who oppose them? Let the promoters of these events give "book, chapter, and verse;" "precept, approved example, or necessary inference;" "generic or specific authority" and I, for one, shall accept it. Is this not fair? Indeed it is! Brethren, it is the only right way! Give Biblical authority!

2. Sponsoring churches and centralization of funds. Why

the controversy? No Biblical authority for such practice. Where is the authority?

3. What has caused the controversies over church support of colleges, and the church supported benevolent organizations? Is it because some brethren are opposed to radio preaching? opposed to colleges? opposed to the church caring for those whom it is authorized to help? No! The controversy is over authority. The Bible either authorizes such an arrangement or it does not. Where is the authority? It authorizes church support of colleges or it doesn't. Where is the authority? It authorizes churches to practice "unlimited benevolence" or it does not. Where is the authority? It authorizes churches to build, maintain, and/or support human benevolent institutions or it does not. Where is the authority?

The man that says that the present controversies are not over authority or do not involve authority is either deceitful or he doesn't know what he is talking about.

Let's Open The Door

Brethren, the "key" which will unlock the door to religious unity is Biblical Authority — rightly apprehended, rightly applied, and rightly regarded. One of the greatest errors of mankind is the holding of improper attitudes toward the authority of God. From the earliest days of Eden until now, this has been a curse of the ages. If all religious people would bow their knees to the proper authority in religious matters, all of our divisions and problems (at least concerning doctrinal issues) would be settled. Lees use the "key," Let's open the door, Let's be united!